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Downtown

So much for a dark season

I OD'd on Ashland this week. So if you see the dark circles — under my eyes, at least you'll know the drug of choice.

I often say that Ashland is a lot like falling down the — rabbit hole. This week, I blissfully plummeted, which served to remind — me, as it should everyone around here, that things are picking up around — town.

Our so-called downtime is over, and if you ask me, it — was anything but down.

Dark season?

As I look back over the past dark season, I wonder if — I blinked and missed it? Sure, the festival closed in early November, — but the Festival of Light was just around the corner. Downtown Ashland — in December: Priceless. Often I was out wandering around, going to restaurants, — seeing plays or bumping into friends on the street. Not much slow in December.

If February was slow, I definitely didn't notice it. All — the off-season plans I made - tax preparation, landscape at home, finishing — painting the walls, clean the garage - weren't even a glimmer in my eye — throughout the month.

That's why this week was like a bullhorn blast to the — ear. The supposed down time, is like dust in the wind, the events of this — week wrote across the script of my brain in blocky black 80-point letters. — Hold on to your parking spaces, because things are heating up again.

So much to do

A little thing like opening weekend at Oregon Shakespeare — Festival passed and I was too scheduled to see any plays.

Thursday night I got lost in Ashland for the first time. — I didn't know it was possible, but I couldn't find the one building where — Fred Stockwell was showing an aerial slide show of the Rogue Valley. I — visited the Grove, the civic center, the armory and the community center — to no avail before heading home. Little did I know it would be my earliest — night for days.

Friday, work had piled up. Any hope of a restful weekend — would be a mirage if I didn't work late. A time-sensitive business appointment — that couldn't be scheduled at any other time, was penciled in for 8 p.m. — That meant the attempt at a brief spontaneous after-work drink at Alex's — with friends didn't start until 10 p.m. Drinks turned to appetizers, which — turned to late night dinner and a $150 tab that didn't get paid until — after midnight. The day that started at 5 a.m. ended 20 hours later.

Saturday was the one "restful" day. Breakfast with the — daughter, home from college and a dinner date with new friends were the — only items on the agenda. Both were put there nearly a month before.

With exhaustion weighing, we passed on the baroque concert — opting for one quick night cap and a rare chance to turn in early. But — the nightcap turned into an impromptu outing with yet another set of friends. — An unexpected two-fer. Great fun. Long night.

Even the deity couldn't enforce the day of rest as the — alarm rang on Sabbath morn just after dawn. We had been enlisted to help — at the Standing Stone Master's Classic with it's 8 a.m. start time for — volunteers.

A stiff wind greeted us. Head bowed, we bolted for the — lodge to prepare for our service as finish race timers.

Sitting in the snow, under a sharp winter chill brings — visions of down comforters in heated houses. But the energy of the race — was fun to watch -the bonding, sense of community and vitality among those — who braved the conditions to enjoy the mountain. It would be nice if something — so fun and community-oriented as a non-profit ski area would be a source — of pride, not division, within our community. Despite the weather, for — the people on this mountain, on this day, it's the only place to be.

We leave before the awards festivities to attend the sold — out Ashland Independent Film Academy Award party/fundraiser. The party — buzzed with excitement as the stars walked the red carpet on 30-foot screens — in the Historic Ashland Armory Sunday night. For one of the first times — in many silent auctions, I am a winner - taking home a reserve Pinot for — the library.

After the party ends, the alarm is set for 4:30 a.m. and — the day of rest is gone, but the full schedule is not.

Not over yet —

After long days of work Monday and Tuesday, including — another 8 p.m. meeting Monday night, I attend the opening night of Southern — Oregon University's First Amendment Forum. The topic pits librarians against — the FBI in a first amendment debate of rights under the age of the Patriot — Act. It's an unlikely pairing, but one that nevertheless has some in the — crowd worked up.

One woman, a Muslim who says she is a friend of former — Ashland resident Pete Seda, asks if she is endangering herself by researching — the case, or even writing about her friend. Special Agent in Charge Robert — Jordan tells her that if any agents knock on her door, to give them his — card. She won't be bothered, he tells her, much to her relief.

On the topic of the FBI's role in these modern times, — Jordan is equally candid.

"I know that all of law enforcement underwent a sea change — after 9/11," he said. "We are still trying to respond to what the public — wants."

The alarm is set again. First Friday is coming in less — than 48 hours. A lineup of interesting plays need to be seen and new menus — to be sampled, never mind the weeds growing taller than my kids and the — looming meeting with the tax account on the horizon.

I OD'd on Ashland this week and I'd strongly recommend — it.